Sharks and filmmakers visit Sue Buel

The second biggest shark in the sea visited Sue Buel Elementary School Wednesday, practically daring students to stick their hands or heads into its gaping mouth.

Luckily for the children, the basking shark wasn’t real, simply a life-size inflatable version.

But even if they had met a basking shark in the water off the Oregon coast, the kids would have been safe if they had left it alone. Basking sharks snack on plankton, not pupils.

The lifelike, inflatable shark came to school with Oregon filmmakers Laura and Robert Sams. Their production company, Sisbro Studios, specializes in making nature-related films for young audiences.

The sister and brother team has produced six films, including “A Pirate’s Quest,” which they presented at Sue Buel in January 2010. This time, they told students about their most recent project, “The Shark Riddle.”

When they were asked by the Save Our Seas Foundation to do a shark movie, Laura said, she and her brother started by learning all they could about sharks. They watched films of sharks, read books about sharks and consulted with shark experts.

For instance, they learned that sharks are a type of fish with tiny tooth-like scales, five gills on each side of their heads and skeletons made of cartilage.

There are more than 400 kinds of sharks in the world’s oceans. The great white is the biggest, even larger than the basking shark. Some sharks are small, including the tiny dwarf lantern, only 8 inches long.

They turned what they’d learned into a script delivering plenty of information about sharks in a humorous way. They rewrote the script numerous times to make it more informative and funnier, they said, demonstrating by reading sections from their first draft and the finished product.

The Sams also told students about creating a storyboard, which had a drawing of what each scene would look like, and turning the storyboard into a finished movie. And Rob discussed filming sea lions off the coast near Coos Bay — something he had to do quietly and slowly not to disturb their natural behavior.

As students laughed and asked questions, Sue Buel librarian Sharon Buehler said she loves to have movie makers, authors and other artists visit the school.

They do more than just entertain kids, she said. They teach them about the creative process, get them thinking and wondering, and tie their specialty to what children are learning in school. 

In this case, sharks are related to the science curriculum. The lesson also enhances children awareness of the earth, the librarian said. “The world is bigger than just McMinnville,” she said.

For more information about Sisbro Studios, including fun children’s activities, visit



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